Perhaps the most famous 'Kevan Story' of all time happened when I was 15 years old, just a few months before I could start driving. I had already begun taking driving lessons in preparation of getting my license. This story has been told and retold countless times.
My mother-in-law actually tells the story the best, adding flourishes in just the right moments. In fact, as a youth leader in Pennsylvania, she used to relate this story when speaking to large groups of youth who had gathered to hear her wisdom... of course, the story was never told to show what young people should do-- but always as the highest example of the trouble one can get into when doing what you shouldn't!
When hearing this story my Stake President (similar to a Bishop in the Catholic Church) began to use the story among his friends and family... there is no telling how far and wide this story has actually spread!
So... being 15 years old and anxious to drive a car, I had an added incentive to be excited because my father had purchased a new Camaro, with a large 427 V-8 engine and stick-shift. This was unusual for my father, who usually bought standard sedans and family cars. The idea that he had bought this 'race car' at the opportune time of my getting a license to drive was just too much to stand!
My father had helped me learn to drive by taking me out with several old cars (in case I wrecked them) and even with the Camaro, in order to teach me how to drive a stick-shift. This was always done in empty parking lots, as I had not received my Learner's Permit yet. Thus, having had a little driving under my belt, it didn't take much to persuade me to go solo...
One afternoon some friends came to my house--I don't remember why--and ended up admiring the Camaro that was sitting in our garage. I don't remember why I was home alone with the Camaro in the garage... my father usually took it to work, and my mother had her own car (an ugly AMC bubble car); but there was the car, tempting me to drive it...
It didn't take long before the teasing and dares from my friends led me to make a fateful decision: we would all go for a short 'joy ride' in the new Camaro. It had to be short, because I did not want to risk getting caught, so we decided to drive down to the local 7-Eleven store to get some soda, and drive back. On the way to the store, there is a small hump in the road--just large enough to 'get some air' if you are driving fast enough! Having such a powerful car at my command, it was easy to get up enough speed to put all of our stomachs in our mouths as I drove over the bump in the road. By the time we reached the store, we were all excited, and I was pumped-up, leaving me feeling as though I was really in control. So much for the theory of adrenalin making one think clearly...
As I pulled out of the 7-Eleven, and feeling cocky, I decided to try one of those spin moves you see in the movies--backing up quickly, then spinning around so that you are going forward. As I hit the gas to back up, and then turned the wheel to spin the car, something went wrong. Not knowing just how powerful an engine this car had, and how fast it could go in reverse, the car swung around and slammed into the side of the store with a very loud 'crash'!
It is amazing how fast someone can go from elation to sheer panic! Not wanting to get caught driving without a license, I didn't stop to see the damage to the building or the car-- I simply put the car in gear and drove away. Of course, all support from my friends disappeared. In-between laughing at me and the situation I was in, they wanted to make sure I didn't place them at the scene of the crime. As I drove slowly home (no jumping the bump on the way home!), I assured them that I would not mention who was with me.
Once home, my friends quickly left, leaving me alone to ponder my fate. And it was not going to be a pleasant fate! I had hit the building at an angle, and crushed the passenger-side rear of the car. It was not a scratch that could be hidden, or passed-off to someone else. The whole back corner of the car was smashed-in. My father would see the damage as soon as he arrived home.
The most important thing on my mind was not losing the privilege of getting my driver's license, and the opportunity to begin driving. But it seemed as though no matter what story I came up with, that was going to be a consequence I would face... but, maybe not! My youthful mind began to come up with a plan:
The most serious part of my crime, as I viewed it, was driving on the road without a licence (after all, I had driven with my father in parking lots before); it was driving 'on the road' that seemed to be the biggest problem. In other words, if I had the accident in a parking lot, or at home, then I wasn't driving illegally, and my licence would be safe! After all, I thought, I was going to get into trouble with my parents anyway, but by lying about exactly how the car was wrecked, the police would not be called, and I could continue on my path of obtaining the all important driver's license.
So I made up a lie. I would tell my parents that I had been 'practicing' parking in our driveway. I would tell them that I had been backing in and out of the garage, when I turned the wrong way and hit the side of our brick garage. That would explain the damage, and save them knowing I had actually been driving on the road (I still had no idea what kind of damage I had done to the store--later I discovered that it hadn't hurt the concrete block wall at all, it had just startled everyone inside). I had acted foolishly before, but now I was thinking, and using my wits to get me out of trouble! There was just one thing I had to do to make my story credible: I had to damage the brick garage in some way as proof of my deception...
So, having carefully thought out this cunning plan, I got a large sledge-hammer from the tool shed, carefully marked the side of the garage at the height of the bumper, and where the car would have hit (had my story been true), and began smashing away! After a few moments, I stood back and reviewed my work on the garage-- perfect! This was going to work!
I drove the car into the garage, then stood back, just to go over the story one more time in my head--I had to make sure all the parts of my plan were in place. As I stood looking at the back of the car, then at the side of the garage, and back again, a sudden, painful, realization came over me: I had bashed in the wrong side of the garage! I had chosen the side of the garage based upon the way the car was sitting in the driveway--pointing forward. But in order to have hit the garage while backing-up, I would have had to hit the other side of the garage!
In spite of now making at least two foolish decisions, and determined to see my 'plan' through to the end... I simply took the sledge-hammer and began bashing in the other side of the garage!
Believing that I had now covered all of my bases, I shut the garage door and waited for my parents to come home. To my surprise, my parents believed my story (notwithstanding the inconsistency of having BOTH sides of their garage bashed in). They punished me with weeks of being grounded, and made sure that I paid for at least some of the damage I had done to the car. But in the end my 'plan' had worked, I guess, as I did receive my drivers licence, and, eventually, was permitted to drive on the road.
Years later, after I was an adult, married with children, and in a moment of weakness, I told my father the real story of the car and the garage. It is amazing...even years later, he still got mad at me! I'm sure, had it been within his power, I would have been grounded again!
This singular event should have been a great learning experience for me: don't break the law, don't lie, don't be stupid, etc.; but unfortunately, this was just the beginning of my sorrows as it related to automobiles, and the law... but those stories are for another day!